So yes, I know how arrogant this will sound, but I feel, via the changes, revisions, subtractions and additions, I present in ME3V, I make ME3 a far better game than what the entire staff at BioWare spewed forth.
So says Gerry Pugliese in the introduction to his five-hundred-plus page rewrite of Mass Effect 3, bearing the spectacularly self-aggrandising title “Vindication.” It’s pretty comprehensive, changing everything from character classes to gameplay to dialogue to, of course, the ending.
Content-wise, "Vindication" is fan fiction through and through. We catch up with seemingly every character ever to appear even fleetingly in the series. New romance options abound (“Good boy, Vega. That’s exactly what I needed.”). Garrus appears shirtless. There are literally over one hundred pages of epilogues. The Star Child is gone, replaced by a Prothean VI who functionally serves more or less the same purpose. Most importantly, in some of the endings, Shepard survives to have babies! The status quo is retained! Fans rejoice!
The issue here is not one of whether "Vindication" is any good. It’s not even an issue of whether the ending of Mass Effect 3 was bad enough to justify its creation. (It wasn’t, but I’m not arguing about that anymore.)
The issue is one of fan entitlement, which reaches a Reaperesque scale with "Vindication," just when you thought the bubbling cauldron of toxic internet rage had simmered down. Pugliese attempts to pre-emptively defend against this argument in his lengthy, ranting introduction:
Amid the uproar over ME3’s endings, when fans were raging the hardest and journalists were calling disgruntled fans entitled brats, an argument supporting BioWare’s writers was floating around. It sounded something like this: “This is how BioWare intended Mass Effect 3 to end. It is their artistic vision.
[...] Sure, ME3 and the Mass Effect series ended as its creators intended. Fine, I get that, but that doesn’t mean the artistic vision can’t suck. […] Again, just because something is someone’s true art, that doesn’t mean it should be held immune to scrutiny and feelings of discontent from the public. […] Well, my artistic vision contains a lot of stuff. [Emphasis is Pugliese's.]
There’s a disquieting hubris here. Does Pugliese really believe that his artistic vision - one of standing on BioWare’s shoulders and warping their creation based on what he, personally, wishes it was - is as worthy of attention as the original creation itself? There's a sense that the opinions of fans mean more than those of "journalists" or even the creators - basically anyone who disagrees with the notion that the Mass Effect 3 ending sucked. That BioWare released an extended ending is not an act of "mea culpa", as Pugliese claims, but merely a testament to how incessantly these fans brayed. At this stage, the only fandom less forgiving is that of Batman.
By no means is Mass Effect 3 immune to scrutiny. It's a piece of art and people can have whatever opinion of it they like. Hell, that's one of the defining characteristics of art itself. But having an opinion is different to demanding that changes be made, or rewriting it and saying it's inherently superior. This is even worse than ordinary fan fiction - it's fan fiction fuelled by hatred and accompanied by a claim that it's better than the work upon which it's based. How twisted is that?
When a normal person dislikes a piece of art, they move on, content to leave it as simply something they didn't like. They don’t remake the thing in their own image and send it to the artists bearing a Post-It saying "Hey, I fixed your sucky work!". And indeed, with Mass Effect 3, the rest of the world moved on. Some creative people may have channeled their disappointment with its ending or their love of the series into writing a spiritual successor (like what the games themselves are to their own spiritual progenitors). But Pugliese wrote five hundred pages of fan fiction, took a verbal shit on BioWare and expects them to give him a job (“Hellooooo, game companies!”).
I'll admit, my conscience is nagging, ragging on Pugliese's work, since he obviously put an enormous amount of effort into it, but then again, that's exactly what he's done to the team at BioWare - both in word and action. And after all, he's all about opening up to artistic scrutiny.
Until now, BioWare were hard at work on a fourth Mass Effect game, to take place outside the timeline of the original trilogy and tell an independent story in the same universe, which would have been a great, bold direction in which to go. But unfortunately, they're now scrapping that project and going with a rewrite of Mass Effect: Vindication instead. Apparently they have some better ideas for it.
Thanks to @TheMacNaughton on Twitter for bringing this to my attention.